A Look Back: A Breakdown of the Best Running Sneakers From Fall ’97

A Look Back: A Breakdown of the Best Running Sneakers From Fall ’97

24 years ago, it seemed like every major sneaker brand was churning out a classic sneaker model. Most remember 1997 as an epic year for shoes like the Air Max 97 and the Adidas Equipment Salvation, but every brand was bringing a sleek new design or a new technology to the table. If you were a runner, how could you decide between all these incredible silhouettes? It was definitely a daunting challenge, which Eastbay was up for.

To make it easier, Eastbay broke down each running sneaker into one of four different categories:

Support: Shoes with special features that help runners who either overpronate (roll inward), have a low arch, are hard on shoes, need a straighter last, wear orthotics, need more midfoot and heel control, or need firmer midsoles.

Cushioned Support: Shoes with features that combine cushion and support for runners who slightly overpronate (rolling inward), have low to normal arch, are a heel striker or need some motion control yet want a cushioned ride.

Cushioned: Shoes with features that emphasize cushioning with some support, for runners who under pronate, supinate (roll outward), need curve last, high arch, are a heel, mid or forefoot striker, have rigid feet, need flexibility, or run efficiently.

Lightweight: Shoes designed with little support and good cushioning for runners who are efficient, train at faster speeds, have normal to rigid arch, are not susceptible to injury, or need flexibility.

On top of that, Eastbay also sold Trail Runners and Road Flats. Here’s a breakdown of the best sneakers from each category back in 1997:

Look Back Eastbay Catalog Supportive Running Sneakers Fall 1997

Support

adidas Lexicon Extra

The Adidas Lexicon was a beautifully-designed sneaker that doesn’t get enough love. Retailing at $99.99, it was on the higher end of the spectrum for Adidas runners. The Lexicon Extra featured Point of Deflection System technology in the heel, an EVA midsole, a full-length medial post, and Support Torsion system.

Saucony G.R.I.D. Procyon

Saucony’s most supportive runner was the G.R.I.D. Procyon, which featured their patented heel G.R.I.D. system for cushioning, along with a rearfoot medial support device. Retailing at just $74.99, it was a bargain for those needing that extra support without the added cost.

Nike Air Equilibrium

The Equilibrium was Nike’s state-of-the-art support sneaker for those with flat feet. You can’t see the medial side of this shoe in the picture, but the amount of support provided was off the charts. Featuring a Phylon midsole, the Equilibrium also had Zoom-Air units in the heel and forefoot with individually tuned pods. The BRS 1000 carbon rubber outsole featured a sculpted central guidance channel with a lateral Duralon forefoot.

New Balance 585

New Balance has always been loved by flat-footed runners, and the 585 was a reliable model for the brand. Made in the USA, the 585 featured a synthetic upper with 3M Scotchlite Reflective trim, a 4-density polyurethane midsole with a Rollbar Stability System. Runners got all this tech for under $100.

ASICS GEL-MC 126

ASICS was another trustworthy brand for flat-footed runners, and the best model back in ‘97 for them was the GEL-MC 126. Featuring a motion control system for heavy overpronators, the GEL-MC 126 was semi-curved and built on a EE last for wider feet. It had a compression-molded EVA midsole with extended Duomax, and ASICS GEL cushioning in the heel.

Look Back Eastbay Catalog Cushioned Support Running Sneakers Fall 1997

Cushioned Support

adidas Response

The adidas Response line was incredibly popular throughout the ‘90s. The sleek yet simple designs and affordable price points made them a great option for many runners. The Response featured exceptional cushioning with added stability, a dual density compression-molded EVA midsole, visible adiprene cushioning in the heel, and a new Torsion system for stability.

Saucony 3D G.R.I.D. Hurricane

This was my first ever running sneaker in high school, and they were a lot of fun to run in. The 3D G.R.I.D. had a sleek design and a ton of tech inside to match. The visible 3D G.R.I.D. system wrapped the midsole with Hytrel filaments that cushioned and absorbed shock, while adding stability and motion control. At $99.99, it was Saucony’s top-of-the-line running sneaker at the time.

ASICS GEL-Kayano

This was ASICS’ best shoe for high-mileage runners. With a DuoMax compression-molded EVA midsole, a mesh reinforced upper with synthetic leather, the Kayano featured a blown rubber forefoot with DuoSole insert and AHAR heel plug, along with forefoot P-Gel and heel T-Gel. Basically the Kayano had really great cushioning and a lot of Gel inside. At $124.99, it was one of the most expensive runners at the time, but well worth the price.

New Balance 999

Basically anyone who’s ever tried on the 999 falls in love with them. This was and still is one of New Balance’s most iconic silhouettes. Featuring a pigskin leather upper with 3M Scotchlite reflective trim, the 999 had ABZORB cushioning in the heel, along with ENCAP cushioning in the heel and C-CAP cushioning in the forefoot. Made in the USA, the 999 retailed for $125.

Nike Air Structure Triax

As for Nike, their top cushioned support model was the Air Structure Triax. For the runner who wanted a well-cushioned ride with added stability, the Structure Triax featured a Phylon midsole with two key stability features: a Footbridge stability device and a patented Heel Hinge feature. The Structure also had Nike Air in the heel and forefoot.

Look Back Eastbay Catalog Cushioned Running Sneakers Fall 1997

Cushioned

Nike Air Max 97

It doesn’t get much bigger than the Air Max 97. That fall, we were blessed with one of the biggest breakthroughs in sneaker cushioning of all time. The new anatomically designed dual-pressure Air-Sole unit with a lateral crash pad system cushioned and guided the foot like no sneaker ever had before. Designed by Christian Tresser, the unique upper was inspired both by water dropping into a pond, as well as the metallic finish of mountain bike components. Next year will be the 25th anniversary of this hallowed silhouette.

 Reebok DMX 2000 

Reebok was turning heads and pleasing feet of all shapes and sizes with their revolutionary DMX cushioning technology. With the Reebok DMX 2000, runners actually felt the air flow from their heel to their forefoot as they ran. This was an incredible breakthrough in technology, and transitioned well to Allen Iverson’s The Answer 1 basketball sneaker as well.

adidas Equipment Salvation

To compete with Air Max and DMX cushioning, adidas was launching their “Feet You Wear” technology, which allowed the runner’s feet to function more naturally. The semi-curved last, compression-molded EVA midsole and adiPRENE inserts in the Salvation provided plenty of cushioning and responsiveness for runners.

Puma Cell Speed

Puma featured their own state-of-the-art cushioning system with the Puma Cell Speed, which featured a PUMA CELL midsole with polyurethane frame. Touted as the ultimate training shoe for high-mileage runners that require a stable, well-cushioned ride, the Cell Speed was a somewhat niche running sneaker. CELL technology was similar to Reebok’s Hexalite technology, in that the cushioning was designed like a honeycomb pad filled with air.

Fila Silva Trainer

Another very niche runner was the Fila Silva Trainer, which provided outstanding cushioning for high-mileage training. The Silva Trainer featured a Filabuck and Ripstop nylon upper, and a compression-molded EVA midsole with 2A technology in the heel and forefoot. Fila’s 2A technology was very similar to Nike Air in the fact that it featured separate “pods” of air to provide cushioning to the foot.

Look Back Eastbay Catalog Lightweight Running Sneakers Fall 1997

Lightweight

Nike Air Zoom Spiridon

The ultimate shoe for a fast, responsive ride. Featured in the “It’s OK to be fast” ad campaign with sprinter Michael Johnson, the Spiridon was another revolutionary sneaker because of its full-length running specific Zoom-Air cushioning. The Spiridon was one of the first running sneakers to feature Zoom Air, and it would set the stage for the many more iconic running sneakers for decades to come.

Nike Air Max Light III

A responsive, lightweight, low-profile, fast-paced trainer! The Air Max Light III has yet to retro, which is a shame because it was ahead of its time as well. Not only was there a dual-pressure visible Air-Sole unit in the heel, there was also Zoom Air in the forefoot. This was one of the very first sneakers to feature both Air Max cushioning AND Zoom Air in the same sneaker, and definitely doesn’t get enough love from sneakerheads.

Reebok Electrolyte

A sneaker that most have forgotten about by now, the Electrolyte was Reebok’s take on the fast-paced, lightweight running sneaker. The Electrolyte featured 3D UltraLite cushioning, which combined the outsole and midsole into one injection-molded unit. This resulted in lighter weight and greater flexibility, along with an enhanced road feel. Reebok boasted that the 3D UltraLite reduced shoe weight by up to 10%. The Electrolyte was a feathery 9.8 ounces.

Saucony 3D-G.R.I.D. B-Gone

Saucony really made some bold sneakers back in the ‘90s – the B-Gone was a flashy lightweight trainer for fast-paced workouts or races. Featuring a dual density Maxlite EVA midsole with a visible heel 3D G.R.I.D. system, the B-Gone is another Saucony model that deserves a proper retro release at this point.

Look Back Eastbay Catalog Road Flats Running Sneakers Fall 1997

Road Flats

Nike Air Rift

Nike was dropping some ridiculous models, even in the road flat category back in ‘97. One of the most outlandish was the Air Rift, which featured a minimalistic upper and split toe. There was Nike Air in the heel, and they came with a special pair of split toe socks.

Nike Air Zoom Streak

Nike also created a low-profile racing flat for 5K to marathons called the Air Zoom Streak, which featured Zoom Air units in the heel and forefoot. There was a Air Streak Light version as well, which only weighed 6.6 ounces and was available from size 3 all the way up to size 15. This was an incredible value for such a lightweight, responsive racing flat.

ASICS GEL-Magic Racer

ASICS also made a technology-packed racer called the GEL-Magic. Described as a performance racing flat for all distances, the GEL-Magic featured a dual-density compression-molded EVA midsole with rearfoot HEXGEL. It also had a Magic Sole forefoot with AHAR heel plug.

Look Back Eastbay Catalog Trail Running Sneakers Fall 1997

Trail Runners

adidas Response Trail

The Response Trail is a line adidas could keep bringing back again and again, and loyal followers would never lose interest in them. The mist/lake/slime colorway is just as fashionable now as it was back in 1997. The Response Trail was a versatile training shoe that was great for on and off-road use. It featured synthetic leather and a water-resistant mesh upper, along with adiPrene cushioning in the heel. At $79.99, it was a great value for a comfortable, fashionable trail shoe.

Nike Air Terra Sertig

The Terra Sertig was Nike’s top-of-the-line trail shoe back in ‘97. The Sertig had all the bells and whistles, including a very low profile Phylon midsole with heel and forefoot Zoom Air units. Its three-quarter height was designed for the demands of alpine running. There was a protective fabric web between the midsole, and a bi-directional waffle outsole that protected against stone bruises.

Nike Air Terra Albis

Basically a low-cut version of the Sertig, the Albis was also a low-profile trail shoe with exceptional cushioning. The Albis featured most of the same tech as the Sertig, except it had an Air Sole in the heel instead of Zoom Air. Regardless, it was a gorgeous, aggressive design that showed how serious Nike was about trail runners.

Nike Air Humara

Back in the late ‘90s, the Humara line enjoyed a very popular run. This particular Humara boasted a ton of tech, including a heel Air Sole unit and a Zoom Air unit in the forefoot. It was the ultimate low-profile cushioned trail shoe, with a lightweight breathable mesh upper and non-absorbent synthetic leather overlays. The traction was excellent as well, with a rubberized, abrasion-resistant tip and heel overlay.

Drew Hammell A Look Back

Drew is the creator of @nikestories on Instagram. Growing up in the ’90s, Drew loved playing soccer, basketball, tennis, and even dabbled in cross country running. He ended up focusing on tennis in high school and helped lead his team to multiple state titles. His favorite athletes growing up include Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson, Andre Agassi, and Ken Griffey, Jr. He was smart enough to save all his old Eastbay catalogs from the ’90s and loves sharing them with the sneaker community. Follow him at @nikestories or read more of his work here.

Candace Hill: A Day In The Life

Candace Hill: A Day In The Life

Every high school athlete knows how difficult it is to find time for class, practice, meets or games, homework, family responsibilities, and friends. For 18-year-old Candace Hill, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For the past two years, Candace has been balancing all these responsibilities plus a professional running career with ASICS.

As a sprinter, Candace is no stranger to high-pressure situations. In fact, she thrives in conditions that demand the best from her, and the proof is in the race results. Candace gave Eastbay a glimpse at her daily schedule and broke down how she stays motivated and focused on her goals.

So, you want to know exactly what it takes to be great? Here it is:

6:45 a.m. Wake Up Call

When you’re trying to be the best in the world — and get to class on time — hitting snooze isn’t an option.

8:00 a.m. School

Candace is currently wrapping up her senior year at Rockdale County High School, where she is enrolled in a magnet program that focuses on high-level coursework in math, science, and technology research.

4:00 p.m. Track Practice

               2 hours on the track

After school, Candace heads straight to practice, where she begins with a dynamic warm-up routine. This warm-up helps prevent injury by elevating Candace’s heart rate and loosening up the muscle groups she’ll use throughout her practice session.

Performance Review: ASICS GEL-Kayano 16 White/Riviera Blue/Storm

Performance Review: ASICS GEL-Kayano 16 White/Riviera Blue/Storm

ASICS Gel-Kayano-16-White-Riviera Blue-Storm

words_Sara Accettura

images_Zac Dubasik

The ASICS GEL-Kayano is an iconic name in the world of running shoes. So, I have this expectation that anything Kayano is going to be simply amazing, and I think the 16 has lived up to that assumption. And while the ASICS GEL-Kayano 16 is made for larger runners, I think the shoe is a great option for runners of all sizes. If you’re not quite a larger runner, it does take a little bit of time to break in these shoes, but it’s definitely worth the time. More on that later.

I ran in the Kayano 16 on both pavement and on the treadmill, and the shoe performed well on both surfaces. There is great traction, and more than enough room in the toe box. The important first test, for me, is whether I can run longer than 25 minutes in a shoe without my feet falling asleep. I have a wider forefoot that is prone to numbness in tighter shoes. If the toe box of a shoe is even mildly form-fitting, my feet start to go numb, so I usually keep the laces really loose on all running shoes. (And before I realized I wasn’t a freak of nature – that this does happen to people with wider feet due to a nerve that runs down the top of the foot – I would just suffer and continue running on numb feet. Yeah, I know. If this happens to you, don’t suffer like I did – find shoes with ample toe box room!)

ASICS Gel-Kayano-16-White-Riviera Blue-Storm-7

Along with having a wider forefoot, I also tend to underpronate. This is something I notice in a lot of my shoes as the outside of the soles of my shoes wear faster than the inside. According to ASICS, the Kayano 16 is created for neutral runners to over-pronators, and while I don’t over-pronate, I still found the stability of this shoe helpful. The Impact Guidance System (I.G.S.®) is supposed to “enhance the foot’s natural gait from heel strike to toe-off” according to ASICS, and I definitely agree. A stability shoe can sometimes feel restrictive through the midsole, but this shoe did not seem too stiff once it was broken in. But that’s the key – this shoe needs to be broken in. At first, it definitely seemed stiff, and I noticed my stride compensating for it, which caused some soreness around my lower legs, below my calves. But once I got the shoe broken in, about 30 miles into wearing it, it felt wonderful. So my suggestion is to give it some time and you’ll be happy you did. According to ASICS, the I.G.S.® “employs linked componentry that enhances the foot’s natural gait from heel strike to toe-off.” I agree that this technology does help, but again, it does take a little time to break it in. Once broken in, this shoe is very comfortable.

ASICS Gel-Kayano-16-White-Riviera Blue-Storm

Another element to aid in gait is the vertical flex groove that decouples the tooling along the line of progression, otherwise known as the Guidance Line. There is gender-specific cushioning in the forefoot via a top layer of injected Solyte that adds a cushioned platform feel with a lower density for improved comfort, and the 3mm additional height in the women’s models, known as Plus 3, is supposed to help relieve achilles tension for women. What this means is there is more reason to buy women’s running shoes than just for the pretty colors. The women’s models actually work better for a woman’s specific running needs. According to ASICS, the Gender-Specific Space Trusstic System “recognizes the normal periodic changes in the shape of the woman’s arch and provides for the controlled deformation of the arch into the space within the system.” The Soft Top DuoMax system is also supposedly contributing to the overall comfort and efficiency of the gait. I don’t make it a habit of running in men’s shoes, so I cannot speak to this point specifically, but I do know that the shoe padding felt great and ample without seeming too bulky, even though the shoes weigh in at 10.5 ounces. Also, arch support was solid and not too overprounounced or underpronounced.

While the asymmetrical lacing might at first appear to be merely for aesthetic purposes, according to the ASICS website, this offset lacing is intended to “reduce potential irritation and offers improved comfort and fit.” There were some complaints about the inside of the lacing system of the Kayano 15 rubbing the upper foot, so this offset lacing was incorporated to combat such rubbing.

ASICS Gel-Kayano-16-White-Riviera Blue-Storm

Inside of the shoe you will also find a patented ComforDry™ sockliner that “provides cushioning performance and antimicrobial properties for a cooler, drier, healthier environment,” according to ASICS. I can attest that my feet did feel very cool, even during runs on warmer days. After many miles in these shoes, they held up very well. The mesh was very breathable and there was the perfect amount of it around the upper.

At an original retail of $140, it isn’t a cheap shoe, but definitely not unreasonable for a high-quality running shoe. And now the shoe is on sale for $109.99, which is an amazing price for everything this shoe includes. All in all, it is a comfortable, stable, solid shoe that I would say is good for a variety of runners. I would strongly recommend this shoe to anyone training for a race or serious runners, but also to those just starting out running. The cushioning definitely held up, it is very breathable, and there were no areas of irritation or rubbing. And with enough room in the toe box for wide feet, this shoe gets a thumbs up from me. Overall, I would give this shoe an A-, only due to the break-in time. But, other than that, this is a very comfortable, breathable shoe to spend many miles in.

ASICS Gel-Kayano-16-White-Riviera Blue-Storm

ASICS Gel-Kayano-16-White-Riviera Blue-Storm

Asics GEL Noosa Tri 6 Now Available

Asics GEL Noosa Tri 6 Now Available

words_Nick Engvall

Back in September we gave you a look at the Asics GEL Noosa Tri 6 Collection and as was expected, the wild and crazy color schemes were met with a diversity of mixed reviews. For some the loud and attention grabbing, bright camouflage color combination applied to this Triathlon shoe with Australian heritage and inspirations.

Complete with kangaroos riding bicycles and colors that make it impossible to go unnoticed, the Asics GEL Noosa Tri 6 makes the move from Down Under to the States for US triathletes. The key to the Noosa Tri 6 is a soft lining with minimal stitching that ensures throughout the running, biking and swimming, those uncomfortable wear points that all athletes are familiar with are essentially non-existent. On top of that a combination of breathable mesh and the ultra lightweight material, Asics’ proprietary Solyte 55, the Noosa Tri 6 comes in at a feather-like 10.6 ounces.

Performance oriented with colors that scream for attention, the Asics GEL Noosa Tri 6 is available now at Eastbay in both men’s and women’s colorways.

Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Men'sAsics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Men'sAsics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6

Asics GEL Noosa Tri 6 Now Available

Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Collection

words_Nick Engvall

Love them or hate them, you will remember seeing the Asics Gel Noosa Tri-6, no matter category you fall into. The Noosa Tri-6 will make its debut here in the United States when the calendar first turns over to 2011. Judging by the near-blindingly bright colorways that will release, it will probably get plenty of attention. Originally designed for triathlon competitors in Australia, the graphics and details include Australian inspirations, such as kangaroos on bicycles, something we obviously don’t see much of here in the U.S.

The Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 will be available in both men’s (blue) and women’s (pink) sizes. It features the midsole and outsole combination that is found on the Asics GEL DS Trainer that includes Asics’ proprietary Solyte 55, which comes in at a lighter weight than typical EVA midsoles. A soft lining and minimal interior stitching make the Noosa Tri-6 wearable with or without socks. Ventilation is taken care of by a mesh upper and furthermore through perforations in the aforementioned sock liner. Despite the camouflaged midsole, the bright colors will keep you highly noticeable by day, but even at night you won’t go unnoticed as the Asics logo on the side panel glows in the dark.

Look for these at Eastbay near the first of the new year.

Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Men'sAsics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Men'sAsics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6 Asics GEL Noosa Tri-6